Last Friday and last Tuesday, I wrote about New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof’s paeans to the U.S. government’s intervention in Libya, paeans that contained no reference to the U.S. government’s torture partnership with Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. I indicated that Kristof, like most other mainstream journalists, lives in a universe in which the U.S. government roams the world bringing peace and harmony to foreigners and that he pays no mind to an alternative universe of darkness in which the U.S. government is supporting foreign dictatorships, entering into torture partnerships with brutal dictators, invading and occupying countries, imposing embargoes and sanctions, assassinating, and killing and maiming countless people in the process.
Well, lo and behold, you’ll never guess what happened today. In a new articleabout Libya, Kristof actually mentions CIA torture. Interestingly, the manner in which he sticks his toe in the alternative universe speaks volumes about him and the mainstream press.
Permit me to explain why I’m focusing on Kristof given that there are countless other mainstream pundits whose mindset is the same as his. The reason is because his mindset is a perfect exemplar of the mainstream mindset. Analyzing how Kristof sees the world helps to explain how most mainstream commentators view the world.
Here’s what Kristof says in part in today’s piece:
Some Americans have fretted that Islamic extremists will take over Libya, but very few of the rebel leaders have been associated with Islamic fundamentalism. One exception is Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a military commander in Tripoli, who says he was tortured by the C.I.A. in 2004. Yet HYPERLINK “http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/02/world/africa/02islamist.html” \o “The Times article” he told my Times colleague Rod Nordland that all is forgiven and that he appreciates the American role in the Libyan revolution.
That’s it? That’s all that you have to say about this subject, Mr. Kristof? My gosh, the man has been tortured, brutally, by your very own government. Yes, Mr. Kristof, the reality is that the CIA is the U.S. government. When the CIA tortured this man, the U.S.government tortured him — your government—the government whose praises you are singing in your articles for the government that has “freed” the Libyan people from the tyranny of a brutal dictator. Is all you can say about this that the torture victim has forgiven his torturers and is now grateful for the U.S. intervention in Libya (an intervention that has ended the lives of countless other people in the process)?
Among all the bad things that came in the wake of 9/11 — the out-of-control federal spending, the wild borrowing from the Chinese communists, the Patriot Act, the illegal NSA spying, Gitmo, torture, kangaroo tribunals, assassination, the enemy-combatant doctrine, illegal searches, spying and monitoring, indefinite detention, militarism, and much more — I think the very worst might well be the degradation of conscience among the American people.
What better example of that phenomenon than Kristof’s blithe reaction to what the CIA did to that man and to so many others? It’s absolutely amazing. I find it astonishing that Kristof can just mention what the U.S. government did to that man without any sense of moral outrage and indignation.
Your government has tortured the man, Mr. Kristof. Your government cut a deal with Muammar Gaddafi — the brutal dictator whose ouster from power you are celebrating — to torture the man.
Of all the things that distinguish libertarians from statists — e.g., the fact that we favor economic liberty over socialism, and free markets over regulation, and republic over empire — I believe the biggest distinguishing characteristic might well be that our conscience seems to operate at a different level from that of statists.
Statists look at the CIA’s torture partnership with brutal dictators and seem so blasŽ about it. Libertarians, on the other hand, are deeply shocked and morally outraged that our very own government would do such a thing; and we want it fully investigated and stopped.
In describing the Libyan rebels, Kristof writes, “Are they just goons who will create their own tyranny or chaos?”
In Kristof’s universe, it’s only foreigners who are capable of being considered “goons.” What does he think those CIA agents who tortured Abdel Hakim Belhaj are? Oh, they’re not goons, he would say. They are honorable officials of the U.S. Empire defending the rights and freedoms of those of us here at home.
And it’s not as if Kristof is unaware of what these CIA goons did. In that excerpt from his article that I quoted above, Kristof links to a New York Timesnews article that describes what happened to Belhaj. It states in part:
In Bangkok, Mr. Belhaj said, he was tortured for a few days by two people he said were C.I.A. agents, and then, worse, they repatriated him to Libya, where he was thrown into solitary confinement for six years, three of them without a shower, one without a glimpse of the sun.
Tortured for two complete days by our very own government — the U.S. government. Solitary confinement for six years! Yes, six years! Not six days, not six months. Six long years without seeing anyone or anything except the inside of some small dark cell.
To libertarians, that’s astonishing. And although Kristof mentions only Belhaj’s torture, he’s not the only one who suffered torture as part of the torture partnership between the U.S. government and Libya’s brutal dictatorship. As I pointed out in Part 2, secret files recently seized in Libya indicate that the U.S. government — the same government whose praises Kristof is singing — delivered at least seven other people into the clutches of Libya’s dictator pursuant to the torture partnership between the CIA and Gaddafi’s torture team. And of course, there are the torture partnerships between the U.S. government and the brutal dictatorships in Egypt, Syria, and who knows where else.
How did all this happen? Who negotiated the deals? Why were the deals entered into? Did the president approve them? Did Congress approve them? Was the deals put into writing? How many torture victims have there been?
What else did the U.S. government do to support the Gaddafi regime? Why was the torture partnership terminated? What caused the Empire to turn on their partner? Why is the Empire continuing to support other dictatorships? What other torture contracts have been entered into with other dictatorships?
Does Kristof ask any of those questions? Does he call for a congressional investigation into the matter? Alas, he does not. Like so many other mainstream commentators, he continues to operating within his own little universe, sometimes peeking into the alternative universe of darkness, but then quickly pulling back into his universe of sweetness and innocence.
In his concluding paragraph, Kristof writes: “Countries like the United States, France, Britain and Qatar did something historic in supporting a military operation that was largely about preserving lives, not national interests.”
The late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote, “Mental health is a commitment to reality at any cost.” It’s that commitment that our nation needs most of all.